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The most anticipated beatification in Latin America: martyrs from Peru

2015-07-24

Peru's first martyrs could be these two Polish missionaries. They were kill by gunfire on August 9, 1991.

They spent almost a year in the country with another missionary. He was able to escape death because he happened to be in Poland during a visit by Pope John Paul II.

JAROSAW WYSOCZASKI
Missionary
"I'll never forget this because he knew Peru very well. He visited Ayacucho years before. I think he was the only person at the time in Poland with whom I could share the details with, right? Then, with pain in his heart, he strongly told me: 'Go, go.' And he said: 'We have the first martyrs of Peru.'”

The three Franciscan monks were sent to one of the poorest and most violent parts of Peru, an area that was crucial for drug traffickers known as the "Shining Path.” The increase of missionary activity posed a threat to the drug runners, but they had yet to attack the Church directly. 

JAROSAW WYSOCZASKI
Missionary
"Shining Path, from 1989 to 1990 or 1991, began to change their strategy little by little. And they chose us because they wanted to hit the Church hard.”

FR. ANGELO PALERI
Postulator, Conventual Franciscans
"The village where they were, Pariacoto, was far from the capital of the area, Chimbote. It was in the mountains of the 'pre-Andes.' It was difficult to move and the military had been ousted from the area. The government did not send reinforcements and therefore they thought they could do whatever they wanted.”

And so the persecution of priests and nuns in Peru began. It was worsened by an ideological component: Communism.

The first victim was an Australian nun, who was killed in May, 1991. Afterward, they attempted to kill a Spaniard. That assassination failed. But when the drug traffickers tried to kill the two Poles, they succeeded. 

JAROSAW WYSOCZASKI
Missionary
"So they killed them like the Communists in China do. Kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs, each was shot twice in the neck, along with the mayor of Pariacoto.”

FR. ANGELO PALERI
Postulator, Conventual Franciscans
"On the body of one of the two priests, they found a piece of cardboard where they had written: 'This is how the lackeys of imperialism die.'”

The killing of the missionaries went largely unnoticed between the tide of murders and disappearances that people had become accustomed to hearing about in Peru.

The possible beatification of these two martyrs is also similar to that of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. In all three cases, the victims kept a heroic attitude during a violent period. They were firm in their faith and remained with their people. 

JRB/ATO
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